“No, I understand, Mdm Tan. But I think we can handle this, um… situation.” Edmund cut the middle-aged schoolteacher off as she was going on and on about how often Ken had been getting sick lately. But she wouldn’t take the hint.
“I mean, four times. Four! Over the past 3 months, Mr Chan. Really, I feel that he should be seen by a doctor. And not just any doctor, either. A specialist!”
Edmund massaged the bridge of his nose, becoming irritated by the second. It was one thing to have to keep telling Ken to “stop standing on the benches” in the school canteen, but the teacher’s rambling wasn’t helping the situation. “Yes, I know. We’ll get him looked at, don’t you worry. Come on, Ken.” He called out to his son.
The little boy in glasses happily skipped to his father’s side and grabbed his hand. Waving goodbye to his teacher, Ken sniffled as they made their way out to the parking lot. He disliked how his head hurt, and how his nose felt sore from all the rubbing he did to get rid of the dripping. But he gotta go home earlier and see his mom and dad, and that was enough to make up for all the bad stuff.
He looked up to his father and asked cheerfully, “Are we going to see Dr McCallum, Dad?”
Edmund shook his head and smiled back lovingly at his youngest son. “Not today, Kenny. We’re going to get you some food to eat and then we’ll go see Mummy.”
Katherine walked briskly down the street towards the little bookstore around the corner where she was supposed to meet Edmund and Ken. The moment the clock in her office struck the sixth hour, she dashed to the elevators and practically was the first person to be seen leaving the building. Even in her low heels, Katherine managed to walk-slash-run the rest of the way.
Edmund waved his hand high in the air when he saw his wife bobbing down the street towards them, while Ken wasted no time and ran to his mother. “Mummy!”
Katherine bent down to meet her son and scooped him in her arms. “Hi!” She laughed.
After a long 8-hour wait at the office, Katherine needed this. The tension she felt at work built up every minute, especially with the new rival who popped out of nowhere, and the central printer jammed because of a piece of paper stuck in between the trays.
She needed to breathe. She needed to know that at least one of her problems could be solved and that she wasn’t a failure at being a mother.
Her eyes found Edmund’s and his eyes twinkled knowingly, as though to say, “ He’s okay, trust me .” But Katherine frowned. She knew that Edmund had been the strong one in their marriage and that he had also attended more than half of the doctor appointments Ken had had. Edmund had probably had the “He will outgrow it” talk about a million times now because Ken’s doctor Dr McCallum had been nothing but an angel. He took care of Ken especially well during the allergy season, and it was easy to see why Edmund trusted him with all his kind heart .
But Katherine knew her son. And she wanted him better, if not immediately, than better than he was right now. Seeing his puffy red eyes and sore nose, Ken still had a small grin plastered to his face as he flipped through the fascinating series of Batman that his father had bought him from the bookstore. Katherine stroked his head, and gripped his hand tight as they made their way to the car.
They were no less than 5 minutes away from their house when Katherine told Edmund to pull over.
“Stop here. I won’t be long.” Katherine said suddenly, causing Edmund to nearly jam the brakes.
“What?” He asked, confused.
“Stop here. I just need to get something.” Katherine repeated, pointing to a little oriental store that looked like it was about to go out of business. Edmund looked at his wife like she was crazy. The dim light showing through the display windows indicated the lack of activity in the little shop. Lanterns hung around the front door, but one had fallen to the ground, torn and rendered unusable, even unrecyclable.
The owner must’ve lost all hope with the business, Edmund could tell. The poor lantern looked like it had gone through a vicious stampede, only it was one with humans and in broad city daylight. Even the LED lights above the door had almost completely blown out, leaving only four letters visible in its name. What used to say ‘ HEALTHY & WELL CO.’ was now ‘ HE-LL’.
Katherine stepped out of the car before her husband could say another word, and slowly approached the store. She understood Edmund’s reaction perfectly; the store was in no condition to be having any good business.
Or business of any nature at all, she thought.
But she needed pure matcha tea, and this was the only place within a 2-km radius from her home that had what she was looking for. Besides Akira, of course, she thought.
A little chime rang as she stepped into the store, which sounded like a self-installed doorbell. Katherine timidly stepped into the relatively odd space. There were shelves everywhere, and aisles of possibly expired products. Katherine eyed her surrounding suspiciously but managed to find what she came for, and her hand reaches for it. But another hand, old, pale and wrinkled, beat her to it. Liver spots covered the fingers, and Katherine looked up to see who it belonged to.
“Dad, where is Mummy going?” Ken absent-mindedly played with the lock of the car door. His fingers were too small to release the lock with one flick, so he had use his palm to slide the lock back and forth, listening to the click-clack of the door locking and unlocking.
Edmund’s eyes never left his wife, and the minute he saw her enter the store, they never left the wooden door that was the entrance to the shop. “Mummy just needs to buy something, Kenny. Just hold- “ Suddenly, a loud scream burst through the evening sky.
Edmund’s eyes shot wide open. “Oh dear, Katherine!”
He fumbled with the door, and almost bolted to find his wife when he remembered his son in the back seat. His heart was racing as he quickly unbuckled Ken from his seat and lifted him up with one arm, the other covering his head.
Edmund flung the door open only to find his wife leaning on the dustiest counter he had ever seen, her arm stretched out in front of her on a neatly-placed napkin as an old woman with a stick through her hair-bun carefully examined her elbow. Katherine looked surprised to see him at first, but her face faltered and she began laughing hysterically when it dawned on her.“What’s so funny?” Edmund couldn’t help but ask, his eyes bulging out of their sockets at the scene in front of him.
“It was because I… I yelled, wasn’t it?” She was laughing too hard, she couldn’t breathe. Edmund remained rooted to his spot, his hair out of place with Ken in his arm.
“What happened, Kat?!” He said exasperatedly, still out of breath. He put Ken down on the floor and held his hand, watching Katherine bursting into laughter. “What happened?” he repeated.
She wiped her eye, her face turning red and she blinked a couple of times before replying, “I just got spooked, that’s all. Oh, honey, this is Ah Ma, the store owner. She’s just been telling me about the Mother of all teas.” Katherine’s eyes grew wide. “It could help my skin condition – and Ken’s, too. ”
Edmund’s face didn’t change at all, and it was clear that he was dubious about the whole “tea is the cure” thing. He was a man of facts, and he didn’t intend to buy someone’s words when they say that something is good for you. Especially if it got to do with his son’s health.
He shook his head and reached for his wife’s hand. “No, no. Come on, we’re leaving.”
But Katherine pulled her hand away, determined to stay and reason with him.
“Don’t you want Ken to get better?” She asked softly. Almost instantly Edmund’s shoulders dropped, releasing Ken, who ran to his mother in a hug. Edmund looked
defeated at the pair.
“Of course I want him to get better, darling. But how do you know that this is an effective way to do it? Plus, I told you, the doctor said-”
Katherine didn’t want to hear any more. She wanted a better solution for Ken than what the doctor was giving them. Sure, Ken was under close supervision at the school. And Dr. McCallum was one of the best doctors on the island. But if there was a way to help her baby grow stronger, she would try it.
But not without some research.
She had done a whole lot of Googling and reading scholarly articles the whole day on the benefits of the tea before going to get some. She knew a good part of it, and Ah Ma
seemed to know a lot about the stuff, too.
Katherine had no choice but to use her last resort.
She put out her lower lip in a pout, and stared at Edmund with wide sad eyes. It always worked whenever she wanted to get her way, and Edmund would fall for it, every time. But he just stood there. There was no reaction coming from him, no twitching, not moving. Katherine couldn’t even tell if he was even breathing – he was as still as a rock, eyes on hers.
Then he spoke. “Sigh, fine. What’s this about, the Mother of all teas?”
Continue Reading Not Her Cup of Tea – Part 12